Updated: Oct 19
Would you like to find out how other people just like you, with a passion for what they are doing, make the transition and turn their idea into an online business?
I have been interviewing small businesses who have already done it, to find out how they managed, and show you what is ( and isn’t) really required to take the plunge and develop a successful presence online.
Sew-Irish.ie Online Haberdashery store.
Set up by Brigid and John Rynne, the site went live in 2018 and had grown far bigger than expected now holding 4,500 products and selling to customers all over Ireland.
Why did you start an online business?
I was running sewing classes from my home in a very rural location of County Clare. My students kept complaining they were unable to find the products they needed for the classes and I thought there was an emerging interest in home sewing so the idea of selling haberdashery online grew from that.
What platform is your website?
My husband and I set up the site on WordPress with WooCommerce for the online store. Fortunately, we have an IT background so were confident in our ability to develop the site.
How do your customers find you?
We use Facebook and lately we have started with Instagram, but the best thing we did was change our domain name to sew-Irish.ie which helps customers find us when they search on Google. When we started I chose a fluffy name but realised that nobody would find us so by changing it to a name that “ says what it does on the tin” , it has helped us to become the go-to store in our niche.
We used the government Trading Online Voucher to pay for SEO ( making the site easier for Google to understand ) and Analytics ( the ability to see exactly what is happening when customers are arriving and walking through your online store ) because we have no experience in this area. It has been a complete revelation, now we can see what is happening on our site, and make changes to help more customers find us online and have a better experience within our online store.
What is the best bit about your business?
The best bit of going online was that it gave us the confidence to open up a bricks and mortar shop in Miltown Malbay. This got the business out of the garage, into a location where we had the space to develop the range of products on offer and has the added bonus of being a niche store where we have passing trade and great feedback. We even get customers who have bought from us online coming from far and wide to visit our store. We have created our own circle where the online and off line businesses support each other.
What is the worst bit of the business?
We have over 4,500 products in our store. Adding so many products onto the site is a huge amount of work. However, we recognise that this is why is has become a viable business so it has been worth the hard work.
What has been the biggest surprise?
The way the business has developed in two years, we have progressed from running a business from home to opening a store and now have a small team including an employee in the shop. We have attracted customers from every county in Ireland, who all say they buy from us because it is an Irish company and that buying online from an Irish business is important to them.
What can you learn from sew-irish.ie:
Opportunity: Irish customers LOVE to buy from Irish online stores! This is repeated by Brigid’s customers time and again.
You do not need to have ALL of the skills to create an online business. Brigid started with the advantage of being able to set up her own website, but she has had to bring in additional expertise to develop the business. If you can find great partners who offer their skills part time you gradually fill the gaps in your own knowledge. In this case, the outsourcing of SEO and Analytics. Do not think you have to know it all.
You can have a very substantial online presence with a tiny team. In this case, an on and offline store with a very wide selection of products is run by 2 people, now supported by one staff member and a part time expert whose skills are purchased for a small monthly charge. The beauty of developing online is that you can keep your overheads LOW and build up a team around you. By using bought in skills on a part time basis you gradually end up with all the knowledge you need for your business.
Concentrate on search first, then on social media. It is a very common mistake to spend all your energy on social media and ignore your SEO and analytics. Brigid set out with no understanding of this but recognised the importance of customers being able to find her online. This depends on how your site is set up and she bought in help from an expert.
You can see sew irish haberdashery store here